W. M. (William McClung) Paxton.

Annals of Platte County, Missouri, from its exploration down to June 1, 1897; with genealogies of its noted families, and sketches of its pioneers and distinguished people .. online

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Online LibraryW. M. (William McClung) PaxtonAnnals of Platte County, Missouri, from its exploration down to June 1, 1897; with genealogies of its noted families, and sketches of its pioneers and distinguished people .. → online text (page 1 of 116)
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Showing that, by Intermarriage, We have Become

One Great Family.




Platte City, Mo.

■ ■ •

Kansas City, Mo.:





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Our county records claim
No heroes known to fame,

No mystic legends old;
No monuments are found.
No ruins mar the ground,

No minstrel tale is told.

PLATTE COUNTY has little to inspire the rhapsodist, or to
kindle the enthusiasm of the antiquary. Our native rocks have
no rude inscriptions; no chronicler records the prowess of our
aborigines, and few remains attest the high civilization of a race
now extinct. But our undulating prairies, our fertile soil, our
ancient forests, and our gurgling streams charm the utilitarian
and philanthropist. Sublimity may attract us for a day, or deso-
lation awe us for an hour, but we make our home on the well-
watered domain, where fields of cereals wave before the breeze,
and grazing herds respond to our call.

Relics are rarely found. 1 have never, myself, picked up an
arrow-head, but I have seen several collections of arrow-heads,
tomahawks, and mills, or mortars. Dr. J. A. Baldwin has the
largest store of Indian relics in the county.

Except on the bluff at Iatan, and in the extreme southeastern
corner of the county, no mounds appear. No Indian village was
ever established, and scarcely a wigwam erected on our soil.
Though the Iowas and the Sacs and Foxes set up claim to our
lands, their titles were shadowy, and not supported by prescription.


In 1859, Col. Geo. S. Bark plowed up in his orchard, adjacent
to Farkville, large, square, well-burned brick, held together by
straw, in the Egyptian style. They were covered by only a foot
of earth, and were part of a large building.

In 1877, a party of antiquarians, from Kansas City, opened
four mounds on the Beter Brenner farm, below Parkville, and
found stone enclosures eight feet square and four feet high. A
number of human skulls were uncovered, some indicating large,
and others very small, people. They suggested a*n earlier race
than the Indians, but scarcely above them in intelligence. Near
the mounds were scattered large quantities of Hint arrow-heads,
tomahawks, and spear-heads. They discovered a large number
of small mills for crushing grain. See the Landmark for March
22, 1S77.

In the Rerrillc of May 10, 1871, is an account of the mounds
on Dan'l Bixlev's farm, four miles east of Parkville. One lar^e


central mound is surrounded by sixteen smaller ones, the whole
occupying only a few acres of ground. It is stated that early in
May, 1871, a party of Indians came down the Missouri River, and
went straight to these mounds, and opened several of them.
They took out many human bones, and threw them away, but the
purpose of the visit is a mystery. Further examination of these
mounds disclosed human bones in layers, separated by large
flat stones.

Near latan, on a bluff overlooking the Missouri, is a group of
mounds, several of which have been opened by Prof. George J.
Remsburg, of Atchison. Under date of July 16, 1896, he writes
to the St. Joseph Gazette an account of his explorations, from
which I extract the following account of the contents of a mound
on the farm of James Palmer, two miles east of latan:

"The mound measured 25 feet in diameter and was probably
the largest ever explored in this vicinity. Huge stones were im-
bedded firmly in the earth and formed a rude vault. There were
about three wagon-loads of rock in the mound. These had been
carried by the Indians from the base of the bluff and served as a
protection from the ravages of wild animals. But it remained
for the eager antiquarian, who is always prying into the mysteries
of the past, to visit the sepulcher, and, like the angel of the resur-
rection, 'roll the stone away.' What did it reveal? Lying pros-
trate in the vault, under this massive pile of earth and stone, with
the head to the north, was the skeleton of an Indian almost com-
pletely decayed.

"We first commenced removing the earth and stone on the
north side of the mound, going no deeper than the base of the
tumulus or the surface of the earth. We first struck the skull, but
it was so uearlv decaved that it could onlv be traced by the crum-
bling particles in the soil. By allowing the earth to adhere to it
and by very delicate handling, we managed to save a small portion
of one of the jaws containing six teeth. They were worn down
very short and smooth, which would indicate that the deceased
was of an advanced age or that he had subsisted on a very
coarse diet.

"We gradually penetrated the mound, working like tigers in
the oppressive heat, removing the huge stones, most of which
seemed to be set in the ground with the larger end down, which
made them difficult to remove. Some of the stones were over a
foot in thickness and from two to three feet long.

"By carefully removing the earth with a pocket-knife, several
good-sized pieces of the leg-bones were saved. One of the thigh-
bones has a small round hole in it. which very much resembles a
bullet-hole. Tt is singular, considering the decomposed state of the
skeleton, that one of the bones of the toe with the nail on it was
well preserved. The few remaining fragments were charred and
calcined, and the walls of the vault were red. showing unmistak-
able signs of fire. There were also bits of charcoal and burnt


earth in the mound. It is evident thai cremation was practical
by the tribe to which the deceased belonged. It serins that the
stone vault had been built on the surface of the ground, the body
placed in it and burned, and then the pile of stone and earth
reared above it. No relics of any kind were unearthed excepl a
few pieces of wrought Hint.

"The mound was located on one of the highest points in this
region and commands a splendid view in every direction. No
doubt at least a century has elapsed since the mound was built.
Mr. Palmer, who settled there in 1845, more than half a century
ago. says the mound looked as old then as when it was opened
yesterday. A large white oak tree originally grew on top of the
monnd, but it was cut down in 18GG and convened into ties for the
K. C. railroad. The tree measured nearly four feet in diameter.

"On the same hill, about 10 or 15 rods south of this mound, is
another similarly constructed, but a little smaller. There is also
one in Mr. Palmer's garden, and several on another hill just east
of his house. Looking northwest from the mound opened yester-
day,. one may see three very prominent mounds on Pud Smith's
farm, about a mile away. There is a very large mound in front of
John Vandrel's kitchen door. Several men dug into the side of
it some time ago, and exhumed several skulls. There are a num-
ber of smaller mounds on the terraces of the creek bottom which
runs through Iatan. Several of these are near the old mill on the
south side of the creek, and one on the north side, in Bud Palmer's
field. Some of these mounds are the remains of Indian lodges,
and the writer found a portion of a pottery vessel near one of

•'Some time ago the writer explored a small mound on the old
Major Bean farm near Bean Lake. Although similarly eon
structed, it presented somewhat of a contrast to the mound on
Mr. Palmer's farm in some respects. From the Large mass of
charred bones it was evident that several Indians had been de-
posited in one mound. The bones were scattered about promis-
cuously, which indicated that they had been buried with little or
no regularity. A layer of burned substance resembling brick
had to be penetrated before reaching the remains. The pieces of
skull found in this mound were unusually thick. Indian mounds,
camp-sites, and other remains are scattered along the bluffs at
intervals all the way from Rushville, in Buchanan County, to
Iatan and Weston, in Platte County, and it presents one of the
best fields for the antiquarian in this region. Hundreds of in-
teresting relics have been picked up in the fields hereabouts. The
writer has a tomahawk which Mr. Palmer's father picked up
in 1845."

Ancient walls and graves have been uncovered, near Park-
ville, but little of interest has been disclosed.



Sulphur, in large quantities, was discovered near Beverly,
but no mines of any kind have been opened. Chalybeate and
other mineral waters are found in many places.


Coal has been found cropping out in many places. Near
Linkville, in the bed of Second Creek, a layer of coal appears, and
many tons of it have been used by blacksmiths, but the admixture
of sulphur has condemned it. Near Waldron there is a vein of
coal of better quality, and, at one time, plans were laid to mine it.
Coal has been found near the surface in other places, but not in
paying quantities and qualities. The miners of Leavenworth
County, Kansas, find an excellent article of coal at a depth of
seven hundred feet. They are now removing coal from beneath
the Missouri River, and have even reached our shore. They have
bought coal rights under some twelve hundred acres of Platte
County lands, and, in a few years, expect to open shafts on this
side of the river. There is no doubt that, at the depth of five to
si j ven hundred feet, there is an abundant supply of the best of
coal. Though companies have been formed to bore for coal at
Platte City, at Weston, and at Parkville, and the necessary funds
raised, yet the money was returned and nothing done. The day
will come when the rich stores of coal beneath our soil will be a
source of wealth to our people.



The first settlement of whites in Missouri is made at
Ste. Genevieve.

Laclede and his companions establish a trading-post at St.

PopulatioD of St. Louis. 025.


Indian traders have headquarters a1 Roubidoux (St. .Joseph)
and a1 Randolph Bluff, three miles below the mouth of the
Kansas River (Kansas Ci1 vi.

Louisiana ceded t<> the railed States by the first Napoleon,
fur |15,000,000; formal delivery of possession. December 20. 1803.

March 10 — JurisdictiOE surrendered at St. Louis.


Man-It 26 — Congress divides tin- new territory into two parts.
The northern department is called the District of Louisiana, and
is attached to Indiana, of which den. \Y. EL Harrison is governor.

May 1 'i — Lewis and (Mark, with 28 men, start from their
camp opposite the mouth of the .Missouri, on their expedition to
the Pacific. On (heir return, they reach St. Louis September
2.°>, 1806.


By act of Congress the District of Louisiana becomes the
Territory of Louisiana, and dames Wilkinson is appointed the
first governor.


Meriwether Louis is governor of the Territory of Louisiana.


The Missouri Fur Company is organized at St. Louis by the
Chouteaus and others.

The Missouri Gazette issued at St. Louis by Jos. Charless.


Benjamin Howard, Governor of Missouri.

Pioneers occupy the Boonslick lands. The United States
census shows the population of Missouri, 20,845.


June '/ — Congress changes the name of the Territory of Louis-
iana to the Territory of Missouri, the change to take effect Decem-
ber 7, 1812.


William (Mark. Governor of Missouri.


The steamers Expedition, Captain Craig, Jefferson, Captain
Offut, and the R. M. Johnson, Captain Colfax, with nine keel
boats, left St. Louis June 21, on the long, arduous, and perilous
voyage to the mouth of the Yellowstone, to ascertain the prac-
ticability of navigating the Missouri. Accompanying the voy-
agers was part of the 5th U. S. Infantry, under command of
Colonel Chambers. The Jefferson sank at Cote-Sans-des-Sans.
Smith Calvert, then a lad, was errand-boy on the steamer Expedi-
tion. At Cow Island, the winter of 1819-20 was passed. In the
spring, the steamers ascended the Missouri to Council Bluffs, and
here young Calvert was detailed with a party to construct Fort

The crew preferred to winter at Cow Island, opposite Iatan,
because some cabins were found there, left by Captain Martin. A
cow, found on the island, doubtless left by Captain Martin, gave
it the name of Cow Island. John C. McCov. late of Kansas Citv,


in a paper entitled "Survey of Kansas Indian Lands," read Jan-
uary 15, 1889, before the Kansas State Historical Society, and
printed in the fourth volume of ''Kansas Historical Collections,"
page 303, writes :

"Captain Martin, in 1818, camped for the winter with three
companies of XT. S. Riflemen, on Cow Island, ten miles above
Leavenworth, and during that winter killed between two and
three thousand deer, besides great numbers of bears, turkeys, etc."

I have often conversed with Mr. Calvert upon his stay at
Cow Island. He said that hunting companies often crossed to
the Missouri side, in Platte County, and found abundance of
game. Indians were not found east of the Missouri.


In the Landmark of March 23, 1883, is a long, rambling, and
apochryphal statement, by Mr. Barnard, which is reproduced in
Gatewood's "History of Platte." He says that, with several young
friends of Clay County, he boarded one of the Yellowstone
steamers, and was put off at Rialto, below the site of Weston,
where a few Indian traders had established themselves. Mr.
Barnard did not come to Missouri earlier than 1835. About that
time a gang of discharged soldiers built cabins at Rialto, and
engaged in the illicit sale of whisky to soldiers of Fort Leaven-
worth and to the Indians. To dislodge them, the northern limit of
the Military Reserve was extended so as to embrace Rialto. But
Mr. Barnard's story is absurd in its conception and contradictory
in its details.


A wagon road is opened from Liberty, by way of Smithville,
to Council Bluffs. An express was at times run on the trail, by
"•ontractors, traders, and trappers. Smithville, being the last
town a train of pack-mules left, and the first to entertain the
drivers on their return, became for a few years a resort for
drunken whites and begging Indians. This ceased when Fort
Leavenworth was established, and when steamers ascended the
Missouri frequently.

A French Canadian trader and trapper spent his winters in
;i ciivc or "dugout" on the bank of the branch emptying into the
Missouri ;ii Parkville. His name was Alloe; and the Kickapoo
Indians, across the Missouri, railed him "White Alloe," and gave
(his nniiic to the branch. Thai is the name by which it is
known to-day.


Bumphrey (Yankee) Smith, in 1S22, located on Smith's Fork,
so named from him, near whal was then the western line of the
State. Bere he built a dam, and constructed a mill of round.
unhewn white-oak logs. A pair of 24-foot millstones were cut


from what was called "lost rock," or boulders. The wheel was
the old-style flutter wheel. A horse mill had previously been
erected near Liberty by Tillery, but Smith's was the first, in
Clay, run by water power. It was a matter of immense interest,
and half of the people of < 'lay attended the raising. In 1827, Mr.
Smith cut from "lost rock" a pair of Si-foot stones, aud bolts were
added to the mill. Thus i he first hour mill arose in Clay and was
a great convenience. I patronized these mills for a number of
years and used dark but wholesome bread.

The Western Engineer, with a corps of topographical sur-
veyors, reached Old Franklin May 19, 1819, and went up as high
as Chariton, returning the 22d of May. The people were intensely
excited, and Old Franklin was ablaze with gunpowder. In 1819,
Clay County received its first pioneers, and, the same year, a por-
tion of the land was surveyed.


March 6, 1820 — Congress passes the Compromise Bill, ad-
mitting Missouri. The Constitutional Assembly met in St.
Louis, and assented to the terms of admission. August 10, 1821,
President Monroe recognized Missouri as a State. The first gov-
ernor of the State was Alexander McNair. He was elected in
August, 1820. His successor, Frederick Bates, was elected in Au-
gust 1824. John Miller succeeded, December 8, 1824, and was
followed, in November, 1832, by Daniel Dunklin. In November,
1830. Lilburn W. Boggs became governor, ami was followed, in
November, 1840, by Thomas Reynolds. This completes the list
down to the first general election in Platte County.


In 1822, Clay was organized. It extended north to the Iowa
line. The same year, Liberty was made the county seat. Feb-
ruary 11, 1822, the first county court was held at the house of
John Owens, in Liberty. John Thornton, Elisha Cameron, and
James Gilmore were Judges ; William L. Smith, County Clerk ; and
John Harris, Sheriff.

August 5, 1822 — The first election was held in Clay County,
in a booth at Liberty.

December 0, 1822 — St. Louis is incorporated.

Commissioners are appointed to locate and open a road to
Santa Fe\

April 29 — Lafayette is in St. Louis. Westport is the starting-
point for Santa Fe\ Kansas City was then known as Westport
Landing. Steamboats commence to make occasional trips up
the Missouri. One or two reach Liberty Landing, each season.



This is the year of the great rise in the Missouri. The rise of
1S11 was four feet higher. The Indians say the Missouri over-
flows every fourteen or fifteen years.

November 11 — A company of 93 emigrants from Bourbon
County, Kentucky, arrive in Clay, after a long and tedious over-
land journey, and settle near Smithville. The heads of fami-
lies are: 1, Captain James Duncan; 2, Matthew Duncan; 3, Wil-
liam Duncan; 4, Rice Davenport; 5, James Winn; 6, Sarah
Music (widow) ; 7, James Gray (teacher). The caravan embraced
7 wagons, 1 carts, 5 dearbons, 150 sheep, and 75 cattle. In their
immediate settlement they found only the following families in
possession: 1, Humphrey Smith; 2, Cornelius Gilliam; 3, John
Gilliam; 1, William Riggs; and 5, Samuel Croley. There were
no other neighbors.

'November 20 — The seat of government is removed from St.
Charles to Jefferson City.



The following order was the initiative step for the establish-
ment of Fort Leavenworth :

"Adjutant-General's Office,

"Washington, March 7, 1827.

"Colonel Leavenworth, of the 3d Infantry, with four com-
panies of his regiment, will ascend the Missouri, and when he
reaches a point on the left bank, near the mouth of the Little
Platte River, and within a range of twenty miles, above or below
its confluence, he will select such position as, in his judgment, is
best calculated for a site of a permanent cantonment. The spot
being chosen, he will construct, with the troops at his command,
comfortable, though temporary, quarters, sufficient for the accom-
modation of four companies. This movement will be made as
early as the convenience of the service will permit.

"By older of Major-General Brown."


April /?', 1821 — Colonel H. L. Leavenworth and his four com-
panies of 3d Infantry came up the Missouri on a steamer, touch-
ing ;il Liberty banding, as Mrs. Shnbal Allen well recollects. At
the mouth of the Platte (Parkville) he landed and made an accu-
rate examination of the locality, but condemned it as a site for a
i antonment.

May 8, 1821 — Colonel Leavenworth reported that there was
no place od I lie left bank of the Missouri he could recommend ; but
thai there was ;i site on (he right, or west, side of the river, known
;is Rattlesnake Hills, that he approved. His recommendation
was approved September 1!». lsi'7. In the meantime Colonel
Leavenworth had erected temporary barracks, and his men had


named the post "Cantonmenl Leavenworth." The name is
adopted in General Orders, dated November 8, lsi'7. Bu1 Feb-
ruary s, lX3i\ by (leneral Order No. 1, the title "Cantonment," in
ihis, and all other instances, is changed to "Fort." Irs locality is
39 degrees -1 minutes north latitude and 96 degrees 44 minutes
west of Washington.


A large body of land on the west side of the .Missouri was.
at an early day. reserved from Indian grants, and in 1838 Presi-
dent Viin Buren designated the lands previously surveyed be-
tween Bee Creek and the Missouri, as a .Military Reserve for
Fort Leavenworth. The northern line was so ran as to embrace
Bialto, and dislodge a nest of outlaws, who had established them-
selves at that place, and were selling liquor to soldiers and
Indians. October 18, 4844, a large portion of the Reserve, on the
Missouri side, was vacated, and, after survey by Daniel G.
Saunders, was entered by preemptors. The present Reserve con-
tains only 936 acres. Most of it is low and swampy bottom land.
The original timber has been removed, and the land is now a
waste of young elm, sycamore, willow, and cottonwood. It is of
no use to the Government, and ought to be sold to settlers. When
I first passed, in 1830, through the Reserve, it was densely set in
large cottonwood and sycamore trees.


Late of Weston, was a corporal in one of the companies that
located the Cantonment. He always took to himself much honor
tor the part taken by himself. With his little hatchet, he blazed
an oak tree, and inaugurated the grandest military post of
the West.

1 S28.

George 1 . Duncan, now of Clinton County, Mo., but in 1828
of Smithville, says he accompanied James Winn, Abijali Brooks,
and Alex. B. Duncan on a fishing excursion to the Falls of Platte.
Three wagons were taken, and provision for man and beast.
Fish were then — in the spring — coming down the river; and as
they descended the inclined plane of flat rocks, the fishermen
caught them in nets, or lanced them with pikes. There were
some buffalo, but catfish were abundant, and weighed from 10 to
TO pounds. The wagons were well loaded. Zadock Martin had
not then come to the Falls, and the military road from Fort
Leavenworth to Barry had not been opened.


For ten years after Fort Leavenworth was established (May
County was the base of supplies for the soldiers. Beef, bacon,
lard, and vegetables, and other marketing were brought from


Clay. But there was no wagon road. Platte River was often
past fording. Bee Creek had no fords, and at that time every
branch was a creek, and every creek a rivulet. In the first settle-
ment of Platte, hundreds of mill-sites were selected on streams
that now do not run three months in the year. In the summer of
182S soldiers were detailed to open a good road from the Fort to
Barry. A ford of brush and stone was made on Bee Creek, and a
perfectly straight road from the Missouri to Bee Creek was cut
out, twenty feet wide. At Whiteley's farm it rose to the top of
the ridge, and followed the divide to within a mile of the Falls.
After crossing the road, it followed another divide to Barry. It
passed in front of Garrard Chesnut's, crossed Todd's Creek at
Ben Jack's, headed the hollows to Longpoint, and by a straight
course went to Barry. The heavy work on the west end of the
route was done by soldiers; but the people of Clay gave much
assistance on the east end.


But still two streams had to be crossed; and Zadock Martin
was authorized to settle at the Falls and keep ferries over both
the Platte and the Missouri rivers. Keel-boats were used on the
Missouri, and for the Platte gunwales were hewed, and plank
ripped out by the whip-saw.


In the fall of 1828, came from Clay with his sons and slaves, and
built, of hewed lynn logs, a two-room house on the bluff on the
eastern shore, below the Falls. Two shed-rooms were added,
making a house of four rooms. Here he kept a tavern in the
wilderness. His force was a half-dozen negro men and as many
stalwart sons. Besides these, there were his good wife and three
handsome daughters. He had no neighbor within fifteen miles.

Online LibraryW. M. (William McClung) PaxtonAnnals of Platte County, Missouri, from its exploration down to June 1, 1897; with genealogies of its noted families, and sketches of its pioneers and distinguished people .. → online text (page 1 of 116)